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"Leave your inner critic at the door"

Bridget shares her journey with art and how she uses colour to help her wellbeing. From the different techniques she has tried and to things she has learned about herself along the way. Bridget cares for both her children and manages her own set of health conditions.

Illustration of a man sitting at his desk, thinking.

I was one of those children who was always doing something creative in preschool.

Mum was a teacher and set home up like a playgroup, I spent hours with her in messy play, potato printing, cooking, scribbling, writing stories and chalking on my easel. I absolutely loved it!

Then came school and the sudden realisation my drawings looked like nothing they were supposed to!

Like some of us and with some unhelpful comments from teachers I started to feel I had completely failed at art and would dread the lessons. So all that joy and lovely creative, messy art was lost in the box of ‘I cannot do this thing called art’!

Just before the start of lockdown, I attended a course at my local Carers Centre on Resilience.

Whilst I was there, I had some additional support from the course leader on a 1-1 basis, who suggested I try energy healing for wellbeing. She recommended having a session with energy healer Delilah Sullivan.

I was incredibly lucky to be able, as a carer, to book a free lockdown consultation with Delilah where I was introduced to lots of ideas around energy work including the suggestions of spending more time with nature, grounding and crucially the use of colour and colour visualisation.

By exploring my relationship with colours, I was able to find my ‘good’ colours and explore the colours that I associate with low and higher energy and various emotions.

Following the session, I found ways to notice and place my happy colours, (mine was cornflower blue) around the house as a way to connect with positive emotions throughout the day.

I also used the visualisation of the same good colours to help focus my mind at night on remembering positive experiences throughout the day.

This really helped me through some hard days!

I began using nature and photography as part of my art; during regular walks, I take photographs of the things on the route and print them off for my journal. Since my session with Delilah, I have been picking out the colours that stand out to me and using pastels to add those colours to the page around the photo as a way to highlight and appreciate the details of the things on my walk.

Both the walks and photography help me to take time for myself and notice sensory things that bring me pleasure. I would never have noticed some of these things before, colours, shapes, shadows and textures in the urban area I live in and in parks and places of beauty I can access.

To help me try new art techniques, I reached out to a friend who is an artist and runs regular workshops. Through mini 1-1 workshops, I learned simple techniques and explored the use of paints.

This created an opportunity for me to catch up with a friend online whilst learning and it was fun and totally non-judgemental.

During one such session I remember feeling really sad and jealous of a social next door in the garden but being focused into the art, those feelings passed

I have also explored other types of art including Intuitive Art which introduces ways to create self-expression and make marks as part of the artwork. I accessed free videos with the themes of creative expression on Facebook, produced by art psychotherapist, Donna who has worked with my daughter.

Her page is "Conscious Creativity with Donna Loiola." From these videos, I created collages and mandalas. These are entirely focused on expression. We are told to leave our inner critic at the door! I often think of this phrase as I sit down to create!

As my journey with art continues, I aim to put aside at least 10 minutes as regularly as possible on my own for my art as part of my morning routine. The activities I choose create a time and space for self-expression, relaxation and enjoyment whilst creating something that I will enjoy looking back on.

This helps my well-being as it allows me to lose myself in the activity and take time just for me. It allows colours to bring positive emotions to the forefront of my mind and to focus when my mind becomes busy.

“You don’t need to be good, just willing to give it a go”

When art is used for well-being, different things work for different people. Throughout my journey with art, I learned a lot about the use of colours, different artistic skills and what I enjoy. I have explored things from art journaling to collages and mandalas.

I found that by intentionally not drawing, there is no expectation of what I create, and helps me to benefit from the freeing nature of the activity that takes me back to childhood activities at home with Mum.

My advice for anyone thinking about trying art for well-being for the first time is that you don’t need to be an artist. Donna teaches us,

“there is a place for all art, including ugly art”

and working just with abstract colours and textures can create beauty and a sense of inner space and freedom.

During lockdown, me and my son loved the programme Grayson Perry made about art and found it inspiring. In it one week he awarded one of his awards to a blind lady who despite a lifetime of blindness had drawn a picture of the view from her window. It was so very moving and inspiring and made me believe that I could cross that bridge and become somebody who loves art again.

I found this quote from John Kabat Zinn very helpful on my own journey, so will leave you with it.

"Maybe the fear is that we are less than we think we are, when the actuality of its that we are much, much more"

Thank you to Bridget for sharing her wonderful and inspiring story with us.

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